In this article, we’ll talk about What Happens If I Reject a Settlement Offer?
The General Process
First, let’s talk about the general process of going to trial. This might be a little bit confusing for some people because we’re talking about two different courts – civil and criminal. Let’s start by talking about the civil court process:
– There are many reasons a party may decide to turn down an offer of settlement; some people believe in getting their day in court, while other people just want compensation despite not feeling confident that they would win an award at trial.
– In general, the FCRA requires that an offer of settlement shall be made in writing and must include a summary of the claim. Failure to do so may result in a default judgment against you.
– Additionally, if you reject the offer before a trial date has been set, your liability is simple: You do not have to pay any damages if you lose at trial (they’re not even going to tell you what they will be).
– If you do turn down a settlement offer, you will be provided with a trial date before the court, and you must show up. You will then immediately try to prove that you were acting on “good faith” at the time of rejection. This means that if you reject a settlement offer, you should not have any reason to expect that your claim is worth less than $10,000 (and generally not less than $500).
– You may additionally have good faith defenses available to you. A few common good faith defenses are the statute of limitations, credit bureaus’ mistakes, and identity theft.
The Criminal Court Process
Now let’s talk about the criminal court process:
– For one thing, there is no “good faith” defense in criminal court. If you have to turn down a settlement offer, you most likely won’t be able to use this defense if you end up losing at trial (the judge will still allow for expert witnesses).
– The difference comes into play when you turn down a settlement offer and you face very serious charges. If you’re facing charges like violent crime or drug charges, then the prosecution will have to prove that they can meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in order for them to get a conviction. You will then be able to present your defenses at trial (which were not discussed publicly beforehand).
Unlike civil court, there is no summary of the claims provided upon a criminal defendant’s request before trial.
– Additionally, it is very rare for the judge to order a jury trial. This means that if you can’t get a judge to order a jury trial, then you can still exercise your good faith defense.
Note: The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is very different from “proof beyond all reasonable doubt.” The former only requires that you believe that the prosecutor has met an extremely high standard of proof, while the latter requires that you believe that they have met the standard of 100% certainty. In short, you can believe that the prosecutor has met 100% proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but not beyond all reasonable doubt.
Now let’s talk about what happens if you reject a settlement offer.
– In both civil and criminal court, a party may reject an offer of settlement (you absolutely do not have to accept it). You will then be subject to the trial process.
– In a criminal case, the prosecution will not be able to offer any more settlement if you reject the initial offer before trial.
– In civil court, however, you may reject settlement and then be offered another one during trial. The judge may order the settlement offer to be made before it is discussed in open court (though this is rare). The judge will typically allow for a defendant to make arguments that they were operating in good faith when rejecting an earlier settlement offer. For example, if the prosecution proposes a settlement offer of $10,000 under the FCRA (and you reject this), but offers $200,000 in trial (after having presented custom arguments to the judge), then you should be able to win more at trial than you initially rejected.
– You do not have to accept every offer of settlement. If you feel that you’re probably going to lose at trial and would rather not have your time invested in a futile outcome, then go ahead and reject.
– You also do not have to accept a settlement offer just because the prosecution says it is “the best offer you’re going to get.” If you feel that they are bluffing, then go ahead and reject it.
Overall, if you reject a settlement offer before trial, then your liability will be very different. If you accept a settlement offer before trial, then your liability will be very different.
Why Should You Consult Your Personal Injury Attorney Before Rejecting?
Rejecting your settlement offer may or may not be in your favor. This greatly depends on your case. Therefore, we recommend consulting your personal injury attorney in advance before accepting or rejecting an offer. As you may lose your settlement payout by rejecting it, you can also get more awards at the end.
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